Only one question comes to mind.
What in the hell were those 38 voters for the NFL Hall of Fame looking at. Playing strong-side end in Ray Malavasi-coached defenses which meant stopping the run first, then rushing the passer. Youngblood amassed over 150 career sacks. Let me add he played in an era where the rules were for running the ball, not passing. And got over 150 sacks. And then in his twilight of his great career, John Robinson becomes head coach of the Rams and hires Fritz Shurmer as defensive Coordinator in 1983. Fritz goes to the 3-4 defense.
Does Youngblood whine?
He accepts it and led this new defense in 1983 and 84 with the lowest yards per rush in the NFL.
While leading the Rams in sacks for those two seasons.
When the name Jack Youngblood comes up, most fans think of him playing on a broken leg for 2 1/2 games.
Or the 1975 playoff game against the Cardinals.
Or sacking Jim Zorn for a nine yard loss late in the game in 1979 to secure his Los Angeles Rams having the NFL record of holding a team to -7 total yards for an entire game.
What is etched in my mind forever is the 1979 playoff game against Dallas.
With less than 2 1/2 minutes to go in the game, Dallas has a 19-14 lead.
It's third and 10 for Dallas.
Staubach goes into the shotgun formation, everybody is covered so he sprints right on his 2 good legs.
Youngblood on a broken leg stops him from getting a first down with a shoestring tackle.
Dallas has to punt and the saying "Ferragamo to Waddy" becomes one of our most cherished memories.
He is Mr. Ram.
JACK'S DRAFT DAY
What was it like?
Jack Youngblood started laughing.
"A world apart," he chortled. "I mean it was a world apart. It was such a non-event."
He was talking about the NFL Draft.
Step back in time 35 years, to when Jack Youngblood was coming out of the University of Florida as a rawboned defender, ready to embark on a 14-year career with the Los Angeles Rams that, when all was said and done, proved him Hall of Fame-worthy.
For weeks now we've been inundated with the NFL Draft. Daily newspaper stories. Magazine pieces. Internet coverage. Constant news and analysis on television stations. Rumor. Innuendo. Facts and figures. And, of course, live wall-to-wall coverage on ESPN.
So what was it like back in 1971?
It was a story in your local newspaper about who the top pick was, something about what the nearby NFL team did, who was selected from the state colleges . . . and then the rest of the information you'd have go to search for in the agate type.
"On the clock" had not yet joined America's lexicon. Mel Kiper's hair was not yet a science project. And nobody spoke in terms of "upside."
It was different for us, as well as for the players of that era.
Jack Youngblood, who today lives in Winter Park, was the 20th overall pick of the first round back in 1971. Yet, before the draft he didn't have an agent, never went to a combine, never was worked out by a coach or player personnel director, wasn't interviewed by anyone in the NFL, and definitely didn't get invited to New York City on draft day.
"Now," he said. "they take these guys to New York, put them up in the Waldorf Astoria, or whatever it is, ESPN builds a studio, the commissioner is there. Heck, I didn't meet the commissioner until about my third year in the league."
So where did Youngblood spend his draft day? At the Gainesville Sun. The Sun's longtime sports columnist, Jack Hairston, had asked Youngblood to come by the newspaper's office that day and offer a little analysis on the guys who were drafted in the first round.
"I had no idea that I would be drafted in the first round," Youngblood said. "We were watching the news come across a Teletype machine, and when I tell my son or nephews that today, they look at me and say, 'What's a Teletype?' Guys would get drafted, and Jack Hairston would ask me if I knew them and what I thought. I had met some of them at the Senior Bowl."
One by one the names ticked across the Teletype. The Boston Patriots took Jim Plunkett with the first overall pick. Proving that some things don't change, the New Orleans Saints had the second pick, and they took Archie Manning. The Houston Oilers had the third pick and selected Dan Pastorini.
On and on it went.
The New York Jets took John Riggins with the sixth pick. Riggins, along with Youngblood, would prove to be the only other future Hall of Famer to come out of that draft class. The Green Bay Packers took John Brockington with the ninth pick. The Rams, who also had the 10th pick, took Isiah Robinson.
As the first round progressed, the phone rang. Youngblood was told it was the Rams' head coach, wanting to talk to him. Youngblood took the phone and cupped his hands over the receiver and turned with a quizzical look to the guys in the sports department.
"Who," he asked, "is the Rams' coach?"
At that moment someone snapped a picture, which made it into the next day's newspaper.
The voice on the other end of the phone was the Rams' first-year coach, Tommy Prothro. His voice boomed over the phone, rich in his native Tennessee drawl.
"Youngblood," Prothro said, drawing out the second syllable so his name sounded like Youngblooood. "We're going to draft you in the first round."
"Thank you, sir," Youngblood replied.
The conversation was short. Prothro said they would be in contact shortly. Youngblood recalled that he tried to "play it cool. I thought it was one of the guys playing a practical joke. But after I hung up the phone, the next thing I know it's coming across the Teletype. That's when it hit me, and I said, 'Look at this! It's for real!' "
That's the way it was. No ESPN. No NFL commissioner. No cap to put on or jersey to pose with for a cheesy photo.
"And no Mel Kiper to tell everybody absolutely the wrong thing," Youngblood said.
After he saw his name come across the Teletype machine -- the same kind of machine he knew from his grandfather's Nassau County sheriff's office -- he got in touch with a local Gainesville attorney named Bill O'Neill.
"We knew him as Uncle Willie,' Youngblood said. "He had worked some of the contracts for some other Florida players who were drafted before me."
So what kind of contract did he sign?
Youngblood laughed again.
"My first contract called for three years, starting at $21,000, then $23,000 and then $25,000. I also got a $30,000 bonus spread over those three years. And because I was getting married before training camp, the Rams' general manager said he would pay for my honeymoon, and he shelled out $5,000. It sure wasn't like hitting the lottery, like it is today."
Youngblood had studied finance and banking at UF, and he already was pursuing jobs before the NFL called.
"I had interviewed for a job up in Georgia, and had made an agreement with these guys to go be a banker. My starting salary offer was almost exactly the same as what the NFL was paying, $20,000."
He laughed one more time.
"Yeah, it was a different world back then."